A Spa Day … with the kids

Thursday was mummy’s turn to choose the activity for the day. Mr Geek had been very vocal about wanting to return to one of the German baths during our stay, so we’d done a little research on which one would be most suitable for all of us.

Note: the photos on this post of Vita Classica are from the Therme website as they do other permit cameras inside (good thing too!)

3km from our hotel was the Casseopeia Spa which had excellent reviews & welcomed children. It was “textile free” which would mean letting it all hang free, but when in Rome etc. I started searching for more information on accessibility, but discovered that it is currently closed for refurbishment until October. Bum. I did a little more searching and found an alternative spa in Bad Krozingen called Vita Classica.

Interestingly, many of the reviews on TripAdvisor bemoaned the priority given to those with disabilities… cue cartoon style double take. Although mildly concerned that it might be a bit clinical, and rather relieved that they require bathing suits in the Therme (families cannot enter the sauna area other than Saturdays when it is “family day” as that area is textile free), we decided to give it a whirl. Just to double check, I used the Spa’s online chat facility to make sure I could get in.

The spa was about 8km from our hotel in Schallstadt, so I suggested that we make use of the amazing network of super smooth cycleways and get on our bikes. I’m feeling super confident that my wheelchair bike is up to roaming further from our base & this was an excellent test for the battery life (we ended up through a few interesting navigation decisions riding over 20k during the day which added to a battery that had already done a good few km during the week, taking the range of 1 of the two lithium batteries to just under 30km!).

Our fears about the spa being clinical were unfounded, although disabled facilities are indeed located 1st and there are a good number of prominent accessible changing & showering rooms. On entry, you can either take your own wheelchair in, or leave you chair & make use of one of the poolside chairs which means your chair stays dry!
There are a number of pools with most having a temperature of 34° (one has a temp of 29°, and another at 36°)

A static hoist is available for one of the ‘Blue Room’ pools which doubles as a water therapy pool (at 34°), and a mobile hoist is available if required. As the kids were keen to move between pools, we opted for Mr Geek lifting me from the chair onto the pool steps & bum shuffling down into the water with my waist float strapped on, then reversing this process to get back out.

Through the blue room is the ‘hot pool’ at 36° where we spent a good 30 mins just floating with Mr Geek massaging my neck whilst the girls enjoyed the calm. It’s too warm to swim, so instead you just floating about allowing the warm water to soothe everything. One mildly worrying thing of note was there was  need for them to have a sign printed stating no sex in the pool or showers! How many times does that need to have happened to warrant a metal sign?!?

The two outside pools were slightly cooler at 34° (and outside, so felt cooler) and were more invigorating. The first was a round pool with a variety of jets that slowly floated you around in circles. The jets ranged from weird tiny bubbles that turned the water fizzy, to stand up jacuzzi bubbles, to a lay down full body bed of bubbles (Beanpole & TinyPants made a request to remain there indefinitely. Nice try kids). I was particularly taken with this pool & happily floated in circles in the fizzy warm water for ages. The added weightlessness from the bubbles served to allow me more movement and I could gently cycle my legs releasing my hips & back. 

The second one outside pool was more of a round robin massage pool with shoulder water jets, sit & stand jacuzzi bubbles, a gentle rapid, and massaging waterfalls. The bubbles & jersey are cycled so not everything us on at once and people move around on the sound of a bingbong noise. It was in here, that I experienced a waterfall massage on my lower back & hips – by using my float & Mr Geek holding me, the water fell directly onto my lower back & pelvis at such a rate the my then dislodged SI was battered back into place with an audible clunk that we heard over the noise of the falls! It was deliriously good.

The weather began to turn & knowing that it would take a little over 30 minutes to cycle back, we headed out to get changed.

By the time we left it was starting to shower, but this slowed so off we went. We even had time to stop for a quick family by the river selfie because we DEFINITELY WERE NOT LOST.

In fact we were. We failed to follow a simple cycle route so ended up going all around the houses which was all fine and dandy until it rained. Properly rained.

Wet, cold, and looking like I’d entered a wet tshirt competition, we arrived back at our hotel with two very angry children who were placated by dinner & as much ice cream that they could stomach (a lot) and all was right with the world again.

So a spa day and a cycle on Leonardo with this view totally balances out the horrible weather and my left hip popping out after TinyPants climbed onto the bed for a cuddle spawning a whole night of tens & no sleep. But seriously, look at this view!

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Poulet Soup for the Soul

I’ll be honest, many of our adventures out to “accessible” venues have proved to be less than successful, and having visited a UK Centreparcs waaaay back in 1993, I had images of those days of camping cots in a moth ridden room returning. Frankly, TripAdvisor had not made me confident with tales of overcrowding & poor upkeep… so it was with trepidation that we headed to Les Trois Forêts, near Nancy.

We had opted to drive here over 2 days to give me a chance to survive the journey. I’m not ready to fly again & at least in a car, we can manage our own schedule, & the only person assisting me is Mr Geek. Having stopped over in the Ibis Hotel at on the 1st night, for the 1st time in months I was faring better than Mr Geek. The poor soul then drive us for a further 6 hours from Valenciennes through Belgium, Luxembourg, and eventually back into France to just past Nancy where our first destination lay waiting. 

We were handed a smart card for our chalet & told that with my blue badge we could park outside the chalet & leave our car there. We had booked an accessible VIP chalet for 8 as we were spending the week with Mr Geek’s parents & youngest sister. They were braving the journey in 1 and managed the whole thing in just 13 hours (?!?). When initially exploring the idea of centreparcs we’d looked at the European sites as a cost comparison- we were keen to go abroad, and OMFG the prices on the continent were comparable to a week (7 nights) in France in a VIP cottage for 8 equalling a midweek 3 night break in basic accommodation for 4 of us in the UK! Absolute no brainer.

The slope down to (and up from) the chalet was rather steep and had an iffy hairpin bend, but once inside, it was HUGE! There was an enormous living area and two massive dining tables; one inside & one outside. The gangways were nice & wide leaving plenty of room for people.

The kitchen is open plan, but not built for someone at sitting level so whilst I could operate the provided coffee pod machine (massive bonus as this neat I was able to make my own drinks), I couldn’t reach the food cupboards or microwave/oven. I can’t lift pans etc. anyway without injuring myself, but biscuits being deliciously out of reach is a bit mean.

The bedrooms were perfectly split into a double & twin with connecting bathroom with a bath, shower, & Turkish bath, a double with a bathroom & shower + sauna, and a twin with bathroom & shower. The connected twin & double were the designated accessible rooms with handrail for the loo, shower seat, extra room in the twin, & just enough room for my wheelchair in the double once Mr Geek had shoved the bed over a bit. He would definitely prefer to share a bed than have extra wheel room & I wasn’t going to.deny him that. The beds themselves were far from the camping cots of memory. Our double had a fully sprung mattress with an extra 2″ foam topper & two pillows each! (Which were added to the collection of pillows & wedges). This was certainly more hotel than holiday park.

As we were all exhausted on the 1st day, we opted to eat in one of the on-line restaurants. Again, TripAdvisor was filled with stories of unclean surfaces, unpleasant staff, and terrible food. Having rocked up at 9.30, we were seated, our order taken in my addled version of French (ha! Brainfog means I can barely speak English, and here I was attempting to get by in a place where mainly French & German is spoken). The staff were brilliant, the food was fresh (as in proper fresh pasta) and they were more than happy for Beanpole to.order an adult dish whilst I had the kid’s menu. The main AquaMundo, which is the main dome housing restaurants, shops, & pool was also entirely accessible through level access. There were a few cambers to contend with & a mahoosive speed bump outside (that was actually understandably protecting cables), but I could propel or be pushed with very few jolts. Their efforts were appreciated. 

The 1st night, we cracked open the mosquito traps as again TripAdvisor had warned is of plagues of mosquitos of biblical proportions. With all of us sensitive to chemicals in the air, we’d bought UV + flypaper style plug in traps and duly plugged them in. Whilst I shall sing their praises separately (the light really does attract the insects which promptly get stuck to the paper behind the grill – no nasty sizzling, just change the sticky cartridge), actually there was only need to catch a minimal number of mosquitoes. We did have plenty of other wildlife hanging about the chalet though – baby frogs in the grass (and decking), and a friendly cat who quickly learnt that the suckers in 709 would exchange paté & salmon for allowing a quick rub behind the ear.
Further surprise accessibility wins were found on day 2 when we ventured into.the AquaMundo swimming complex. At this point there were calls for “I do hope you’re going to blog this…”. Well, yes. Well equipped disabled changing rooms are supplied and kept available by exchanging your chalet key for a special access key allowing you to unlock the changing room doors. Inside the roomy area is a bench, changing bed, shower & stool (no hoist). Already impressed, we asked one of the lifeguards how I could get into the pool expecting to be pointed towards the usual ducking stool. Instead, I was lent the use of a pool chair- leaving my own chair by the side, the pool wheelchair is like an oversized 3 wheel pushchair which can be wheeled directly into the sloped pool until I’m deep enough to float out (I wear a floatation belt), then returned to the side until I need it. AMAZING.  It was dubbed the mermaid chair & was surprisingly comfortable. 

As I sat in said mermaid chair with Squooze (SIL) waiting whilst Mr Geek & small people threw themselves down slides, I asked her how the place was in terms of sensory aspects. Of course, I would be looking at it from a mobility aspect but from  neurotypical perspective. She seemed very much at ease which was ever so nice, but looks can be deceiving so I asked the question: “it’s quite echoey, but it’s big enough to turn the voices into a background hum. The only thing that’s breaking though is the occasional shriek – cue child screaming down slide- and people shouting very close. I don’t like people swimming too close to me either.” It was noted that it was surprisingly uncrowded for late July / August and we were all feeling very chilled. It was nice spending time as a group & it gave Mr Geek & Squooze some time to properly spend time together as sibling grownups. He still feels very protective of her despite being the younger sibling & she still remembers the irritating little knobhead who drove her nuts (yeah, he’s still.in there). 

We were all exhausted after swimming and they all caught the land bus back to the chalet to conserve a bit of energy- I say they because I’d attached Leonardo to use as a type of mobility scooter, so rode him all the way back, plus a bit further to check out the nearly park. With the smooth tarmac pathways built for the hundreds of electric golf buggies, Leonardo can pull some serious speed. I’m happier at speeds under 10mph, especially when there are pedestrians around, but there was a sneaky moment of wind in my hair “bicycle Bicycle BICYCLE!!”.

Our 1st proper evening was very reminiscent of the countless other evenings that we’ve spent holidaying with Mr Geek’s parents. Although I wasn’t partaking of the “happy water” (apple schnapps), it was flowing and we laughed away the evening with card games including the staple Uno and theist competitive game of Pass the Pigs imaginable. I may have been a little number in the head after a round of (much needed) painkillers, but the human interaction from evening silly games is like chicken soup for my soul. It creates connections. And although they are my family by marriage rather than birth, I’ve spent 1/3 of my life with them and don’t feel like that outsider looking in. 

This is in stark contrast to how I see (saw) my parents with their respective inlaws. Being here, it occurred to me that all of my memories of visiting my maternal grandparents for a ‘holiday’ included me sharing a room with my mum & her making the standard excuse of “he’s really busy at work”. Even now, excuses are made not to go & support mum when she makes the journey to care for her mum. I can’t imagine not rocking up & helping if Pen & Mr Geek Snr. were declining in health, or at least just supporting mentally.
This doesn’t just apply to my dad. His parents visited once every 2 years from Canada & stayed with various relatives. In total, I met them 8 times in my lifetime. Nevertheless, they were my grandparents and I created a whole rose-tinted idea of them. As I got older, more details were mentioned about the relationship my dad had with his parents growing up & I resolved to have children who genuinely had the kind of grandparents I’d made up in my head. Consequently, my girls have the kind of relationship with their grandparents the Mr Geek had. And just look at how he turned out. My babies have been raised by a village. They’re incredibly lucky.

Note: the insomnia is clearly still.here, hence blogging until 2.30am!! 

This is a personal take on our first few days at Centreparcs- for my official review, please visit my Les Trois Forêts Review Post.

On Whether To Support The #JuniorDoctorsStrike

Tuesday 26th April will see one of the largest doctors strikes in living memory in the UK. And of course, the evening prior is the perfect time for my knee to slip out. (It’s been bothering me all day, then in bed I looked down and thought “bollocks. That kneecap isn’t meant to be there.”)

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Of course, faced with a trip to A&E on the eve of a doctor’s strike,  I mused over whether the vague inconvenience to me was worth having a grump about…

On the face of it, this seems a simple issue. The politicians saw data that shows people are more likely to die if they go to hospital at the weekend : solution – a 7 day NHS where there are no ‘down days’. To create this, junior doctor contracts are being changed to require them to work shifts covering 24 / 7 available care. Doctors are not pleased by this.

But what about the finer points of what’s being played out?

Firstly, what is a junior doctor? That’s not age or longevity – a junior doctor is anyone who isn’t a specialist consultant or GP.

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More people die when admitted to hospital at the weekend.
My inner mathematician loves this argument. It’s like giving a Bible to Tim Minchin; nothing good will come of this, but it’ll be funny to watch from the sidelines.
Now stats can prove anything. Using this most basic of correlation vs. causation argument,  we could argue that shark attacks cause people to eat ice cream. People eat more ice-cream in better weather. They also swim in the sea. By being in the sea, there is a higher risk of shark attack. There is a correlation in the data, but one does not cause the other. Using the same logic, it may be that people who go to hospital at the weekend are already more unwell, or that people put off going until the weekend, or that the injuries caused at the weekend are more life threatening, or indeed that hospitals are more dangerous to enter at the weekend. Without the relevant data analysis, all we can infer is that there is a correlation of data between it being the weekend & mortality rates.

There are fewer doctors working longer to cover the shortfall
Right now, doctors already work 7 days. Yeah, ok, it might not feel like it when we’re playing GP appointment roulette at 8am, but when their funding is based on a numbers game & appointments must be “made available within 24 hours”, if you’re that unlucky bastard that is on hold for 40 minutes & there’s no appointments left, you’re not part of the all hallowed waiting time statistics. Not so long ago, Mr Hunt himself took his child to A&E for neither an accident or emergency as he had no desire to wait patiently.

Hospitals are falling into debt left, right, & centre due to mounting private contracts and the staff are told there just isn’t the money to keep going. (For the record, public sector workers have seen little more than a 1% pay rise in over 4 years compared to the 11% the politicians awarded themselves last year).

The Contracts Are Not Safe?
There’s a lot of misinformation being whirled about in the press. One message that isn’t very clear from the doctors is that the contracts they aren’t happy about include some rather worrying adjustments to working conditions. So far, the BMA (British Medical Association) have been negotiating for:

no doctor to work more than 72 hours in a week; With an EU working directive of no more than 48 hours, how is the government demanding more than 72?

no more than four nights in a week on-call; This would be in line with most private industry. We’re all perfectly aware of the strain shift work puts on people. The proof of this is the special consideration given to MPS working past 7.30pm, or on Saturdays.

a rest day either side of nights before starting back on day shifts;  Again, a similar shift pattern to private industry where the physical and mental toll of shift work is considered.

facilities to sleep-in for those who otherwise make a dangerous long drive home; Not often something that is provided for others, but clearly not a bad idea to prevent extra emergency patients.

So far, this doesn’t appear to be anyone asking for a “cushy number”. And a working week of less than 72 hours for £23 – £45k seems quite reasonable. Especially when making a mistake might actually kill someone.

And possibly here’s the crux of it. Doctors are generally paid above the national average wage. And we Brits do love a stereotype to rage at. Some genuine comments I’ve heard:  “Why are they complaining? They earn enough!” – are we suggesting there should be Tesco Value X-rays? Essentials stitches? Everyday Value apendectomies? If we hate everyone that earns more than us, why are we not lynching the footballers? The politicians? Pretty much anyone who works in the investment banking sector? It’s not a race to the bottom. Just because someone else’s job is worse, we shouldn’t lower the bar!

“They don’t live in the real world. Private workers do shift work.” – and they do, however when you suggest The real World is a factory as opposed to fixing a bleeding human I’m not wholly sure you’re right. What doctors (nurses, physios, etc) do is very real indeed. In fact so real that it’s best not to think about it.

I’m very open that it took me many years to be diagnosed with my own chronic illness, and my diagnosis came too late. By the time we realised what it was, I had dislocated & subluxed so many times that my nerves were trashed. I could easily rage against the NHS, but do you know what?
It wasn’t their fault that my GPs only had 10 minutes at a time to discuss my rare condition.
It’s not their fault that the only specialist clinic has such a long waiting list right now that they have closed their doors.
It’s not their fault that they can’t provide long term physio.
The buck stops with the Minister For Health. With an appropriate funding structure & money not being wasted on private investment and gimmicks to make the government look good, treatment could have been available.

My personal view is that strikes don’t help matters. It’s too easy to use them as a stick against those trying to get their voice heard. Just like when you’re battling Voldemort, patience is required. And the ability to use the power of his own wand against him.

With that said, I’ve done my bit to lighten the load & physiotaped the hell out of my wonky kneecap. It can wait until their voices are heard. So my leg is coming out in support of the doctors. You do a good job of fixing people, but you need better PR people.

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#touchyourselftonight … Go on. It’s important.

Who better than to tell you to have a crafty wank all in the name of preventing cancer? It’s not going to get better than Deadpool. It’s like public health and back story in one!

Whilst you’re at it, do ensure the ladies are making an inspection of their curvy bits too… Unless you get to do that too. You know, in a totally selfless way (bonus!). I’m not ashamed to say I wouldn’t mind being checked over by the lord of spandex.

The marketing for Deadpool is genius. We’ve booked tickets for Valentines because we’re just that romantic. There’s something about him that reminds me of Mr Geek…

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I’m always a sucker for the bad guy (cue crush on Sabertooth instead of Wolverine, Harley Quinn instead of Batman (or girl), Moriarty instead of Sherlock). And now along comes Deadpool with his avacardo face, sense of humour and wild inappropriateness that holds a mirror up to that absolute dude* who snagged me with forever jewellery.

Only 2 1/2 weeks to go! Until then, try to do that sort of thing in private. On the bus is going to get you in trouble.

* I should mention that Mr Geek neither resembles fruit, nor has any terrible disfigurement. He is cringeworthy in his appropriateness though.

How to get me into a gym (without using a gun, or lining the machines with chocolate bars)

… Make it a competition. Even if it’s against myself.

Nothing like being given a challenge and we tried out the brand shiny new gym this evening.

Our local council have decided that our local swimming pool was finally past it’s best and needed to be replaced. This week was the grand opening of the new public swimming baths and gym. We were rather excited having ‘downgraded’ from our years of David Lloyd membership after they upped the prices once again to a point where I just couldn’t justify the monthly rate for me actively avoiding the super happy peppy personal trainers (we paid out a lot for me to sit and eat cake in the members room). So considering we’ve gone from what is marketed as a members sports club to the local fitness membership we weren’t expecting a huge amount.

But bloody hell! Total kudos to our local council for providing a really nice facility in a very pretty building. Well, I think it is even if it’s a bit of a contentious issue locally.

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Anyway. A pretty building is unlikely to hold my interest for long considering my total aversion to any exercise that doesn’t involve eight wheels bolted onto overly colourful shoes or a cake on the end of a stick. However, each of the machines lets you put in your personal exercise chip and pin type card that sets the machine up for you and tells you what to do.

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Meet my perfect personal trainer:

  • It won’t let me cheat
  • it sets the machine up for me
  • It doesn’t call me ‘buddy’
  • actually, it doesn’t talk to me at all!
  • it lets me try to outdo my basic workout
  • it records everything
  • it gives me GRAPHS!

I came home this evening and ate a yogurt. An activia yogurt. 0% fat no less.

All this is a step towards shedding some wobble for roller derby!

Graze Box Review – oh my brownies!

I got stupidly excited by our first Graze box. For those of you who haven’t been sucked into the snack revolution, this is a company that chooses 4 interesting snacks and posts them out to you in a little box once a week (or more). Delivered, they cost around £3.70 per box, which is pretty much what you’d pay in the shops for this type of snack. You can rate their snacks on their website so typing don’t get any nasty surprises and most of them are reasonably healthy.

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Between me and LSH these aren’t going to last very long!

Half of the box has just been noshed by me having a brownie session (you’d never know this was healthy!).

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(Um… There were three… I was just testing them out…)

LSH opted for black pepper nibbles with mango chitney

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Equally yum!

And for this reason, I’m sticking the code on here for you guys to get yourself a free box when you sign up. (I’m nice like that, and I’m now toying with the idea of getting a second box each week…)

Just enter this code into http://www.graze.com

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Happy noshing!